Japanese auto major Honda Cars, which has been in India for more than 25 years in India, has made a success of its flagship brand — Honda City. The sedan has been the best selling in the segment in the Indian car market and remains so, with more than 44 per cent market share. In some States like Kerala, it has 67 per cent market share, the highest. The company now is introducing e:HEV City – the hybrid electric version of the vehicle with self-charging two-motor strong hybrid system connected to a 1.5 litre petrol engine, entailing a peak power of 126 PS and fuel efficiency of 26.5 km per litre. In an interview with BusinessLine, the newly appointed President and Chief Executive Officer, Takuya Tsumura, shares more about the new car as well as Honda’s long-term plans ahead, including the Hyundai Creta rival SUV launch next year. Excerpts:
What are the offerings in City e:HEV?
India is an important market for Honda’s sedan segment and that is why we are introducing the mainstream of the segment with e:HEV. It will be a practical solution for the Indian customers ... if any customer wants to buy an electric car, he always has a worry of where to charge it, range anxiety, etc. So this technology has two advanced highly efficient self charging motors and that is why this hybrid gives better fuel efficiency, especially when the petrol prices are going up so high.
So, customers can go for a self-charged electric hybrid system that has 40-45 per cent higher mileage rather than a pure electric car. A lot of safety features also come along like the lane keep assist system, adaptive cruise control, collision mitigation braking system, auto headlamp beam and road departure mitigation.
Is the City hybrid your first step towards electric mobility in India? When do we expect a pure EV from Honda?
Our global head has recently announced the plans to launch 30 EV models by 2030 (globally), with an annual production volume of more than two million units. He has given the direction and also the investment of around $40 billion over the next 10 years in the EV space. The goal is to achieve carbon neutrality by 2050 with Honda products.
Honda is striving to sell two-thirds of its global sales through electrified models, like hybrid fuel cell vehicles and battery EVs by 2030. And by 2040, our aim is to achieve 100 per cent transition to EVs and fuel cell vehicles globally ... Honda is taking to that direction and if it happens, all the countries where Honda has operations (including India) are doing feasibility studies so that each market can give something.
So surely, the City e:HEV is our first step, and we are studying what time would be the best for us with what product.
At one point Honda brought Civic hybrid, too, but the whole model was stopped along with C-RV. What is the reason for Honda being late in taking decisions? For instance, you will be launching a SUV at a time when everybody already has a share there.
We are always doing feasibility studies on what model should be launched at what time. May be our estimation was wrong at a particular time, but now we think we are launching the vehicles at right time. For example, the SUV that we are launching next year, I think is the right time for us no matter competitors may think it is late. We will launch a best model that fits for India because Honda is pioneer in some of the advanced technologies.
For instance, Honda Amaze was specifically launched for the Indian customers and it is doing very good with maintaining the number two position. So you may be right in saying that we are late in many products, but whatever the product, it is offered specifically for the Indian needs and that’s the reason we will make the SUV keeping in mind what the Indian customer wants.
But, the market is getting bigger and competitive in each segment like the City, where a lot of competitors like Skoda and Volkswagen are also looking at a strong market share. So being a market leader in that segment, are you worried?
I think City is a sophisticated product and meets the demand of the customers. And, the new e:HEV City is something which is updated with more advanced technologies to keep up with the competitors and we will keep engaging the customers in future too. And, not only the City, but also with other models like the Amaze and the upcoming SUV next year.
We will also grow better than the market every year ... if the market grows by 10 per cent, we will grow more than that. On the competition side, I think competition coming in is a good for us because customers will get more choices within the sedan segment. It also means that the sedan segment which had shrunk, is possibly going to increase, and our market share also increase.
On the regulations or policies side, are you happy with the Indian norms?
I think the regulations should not come as a sudden decision. Like in other countries, there should be at least two-three years in advance so that we prepare ourselves, because it takes at least three years to make a product. Even in the taxation part, if a sudden change comes in, it is hard to meet what is the best for the customers. For instance, if a regulation comes in January and again some new changes by July, it is tough to meet.